Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Can Happen in Borneo? A Thanksgiving Gift from Carole Peccorini, Guest Blogger

          In November 1988, I spent Thanksgiving in Borneo as a volunteer with the Earthwatch Orangutan Project at Camp Leakey in the middle of the rainforest.  Just to help you locate me, Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world floating in the center between Singapore, Jakarta, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.  Thanksgiving Day was November 24 that year, almost mid point in my 3-week stay at Camp Leakey.

          By then I had learned what it meant to sweat through every pore in my entire body.  My clothes were all tie-dyed from being washed in a pail by the river with others.  No sorting of darks from lights in this wash-by-loving hands laundry with the indigenous Dayak women on the dock.  Mildew was setting in.  We reeked of DEET to ward off battalions of mosquitoes and other bugs without names.  The black water river with “harmless” crocodiles was our bathtub.

          There are some things about this Thanksgiving I remember very clearly.  That morning we walked in the rainforest.  Just before the next torrential downpour, it grew intensely hot and still.  Then there is the rustle of wind in the treetop canopy followed by a drop in the air temperature.  After that it is as though someone is personally pouring buckets on top of you until you are soaked through and through.  We trudged along in the sopping mess.  The birds were still singing and the drone of the bugs remained like a solid mass we were penetrating as we walked. 

          And, suddenly I had a huge awareness.  “I felt, my body felt so alive!”  The entire surface of my skin, every hair and every sense including all the sensors in my brain were in contact and engaged with my world of this rainforest path right now.  I remember thinking, “I can hardly believe it.  This is my Thanksgiving and I feel so utterly alive.”

          When we returned to camp, we were sitting in the guest cottage and Birute Galdikas was giving us a “college talk” about the plants and trees in the rainforest and also about the orangutans who were the subject of her long term primate research in the wild.  My clothes were still damp.  The intense heat had returned.  I was doing my best to take notes but my fingers were stuck to my pen from the fresh pineapple spears we ate. 

          Three orangutans, the amazing redheads of the primate world, were hanging on the screens observing us while brushing their teeth in perfect imitation with toothbrushes they had snatched while we weren’t looking.  Again, I thought.  “It is Thanksgiving.  I can hardly believe this and yet I feel so alive, so awake.”

          Later in reflecting on this experience, I had awareness that my world at home derives a lot of security from our comfort.  The room thermometer in my home and in my car when I go out allows me to keep the temperature in a narrow range of comfort.  It’s tempting with the holidays to place ourselves in the cocoon of the familiar where we feel comfortable ~ to be with people we already know and eat foods that are both traditional and ones we already like.

          I thought to myself,  “I’ve traded my aliveness for comfort and the idea of security.”  I also noticed that when I feel that peak of aliveness, I am filled naturally with the deep feelings of gratitude and thankfulness for life.  To me, it seemed that my question was answered. What can happen in Borneo at Thanksgiving?  I can have the experience of being totally alive and filled with gratefulness.

          I was 45 years then and one of my favorite volunteers with me was 80.  This Thanksgiving I am 71 years and reflecting on the possibility that to feel the fullness of the holidays may actually require us to shake it up a bit:  makes some changes, do something quite different, make some new choices, touch the lives of new people, go out in nature. 

          When we complain and find ourselves unhappy, sometimes we are bored and our heart and soul is actually longing for something new.  We don’t have to go to the other side of the world, perhaps just move out the familiar to truly be filled to the brim with the rich experience of Thanksgiving.

May you have a rich holiday wherever you are.
Carole Peccorini

P.S.  Something that might delight you as it does me ~  I fell in love with those redhead orangutans with their hair sticking up on top.  They grabbed my shampoo and from watching they knew just how to lather their hair.  Also, I learned later at the San Diego Zoo when they completed the new outdoor natural enclosure for the orangutans, these most curious creatures had watched the construction project with great interest.  The first night in their new home they escaped having watched every screw and how to unscrew it.  They are called the mechanics and construction engineers of the rainforest for a reason!  Orang means person in the indigenous language and utan means forest ~ so they are the persons of the forest ~ with a knack for tools and imitation.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Ways to Ensure Holiday Happiness

          The holidays are just around the corner, and I don't think it's ever too early to remind yourself that you can shape the overall outcome of these days. Don't you want to look back in early January and feel good about how you handled yourself? I do, so I'll share some things that have benefited me.

Make it Work for You

          If you hate decorating, don’t. You can always appreciate the gala trees, bright lights and larger-than-life ornaments at Macy’s or cozier and homier decorations at friends’ homes. 

          If eating poorly during the holidays is a problem for you, compromise. Take it a day at a time and a party at a time and agree with yourself what you will and won’t consume. You don’t have to completely deprive yourself, but you don’t have to gain 10 lbs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, like I’ve done before. 

          If you hate driving all over town to shop, don’t. Consider this year the beginning of your online foray into donations made in behalf of another or at least shopping and having the online retailer deliver the gifts directly to recipients.

2. Commit to No Distractions
          I do this one day a month all year ‘round but it’s particularly helpful during the hectic times of the holidays. On this day, I do my best to go completely without tech products: phone, computer, TV or any other electronic gadgets I falsely believe I can’t live without. Obviously, go for a non-work day when you can just relax, commune with nature, read an uplifting book or visit with family and friends.

3. Family - let it roll

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is There a Labyrinth to Your Longevity?

          Who is the oldest person you know? What are they like? Are they cranky and scrooge-like or upbeat, active and pretty optimistic? In spite of the fact you don’t have to live your life perfectly to live a long life, I believe your attitudes, beliefs, moods and overall personality have an impact on longevity. I started thinking about this in terms of myself and my friends and I came up with some interesting observations.

          We all know people who are either excessively younger or older than their years. Do their general moods and personalities differ from those of other people? It goes without saying, if you’ve been overweight and/or smoked or been stressed most of your life, your longevity will significantly be affected as you age. In addition, several studies going back to the 1920’s show that other non-lifestyle factors may significantly affect how long some people live. See if you agree that the following four traits can lengthen the lives of older people.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Campaign Spending Reform: Are Our Hands Tied?

          The mid-term elections are upon us, and one of the glaring take-away messages from any political election is the amount of money spent on passing or defeating propositions and candidates. It’s been estimated that approximately $6-BILLION was spent on the last presidential election alone. That kind of money could have gone a long way to reducing the national debt or ending world hunger or cleaning up the environment, etc. In addition, there’s no proof that the more you spend, the better your chances of success.
           Over the past 20+ years I’ve often thought that politicians and lobbyists would do anything, including spending vast sums of money, to accomplish their goals. I doubt they even thought about the consequences of spending this kind of money. Then the elected officials are obligated to vote according to the desires of the contributor.

          While I’ve continuously espoused the need for limits on campaign spending, I hadn’t really looked into why something hadn’t been done about it. A couple months ago I began doing some research on the subject.

          I learned there are several reasons why, to date, we have not installed any significant limitations on campaign spending. These reasons were most succinctly reported by Steve Gillman (Huff Post Politics, “The Blog,” 10/23/12). As he summarized, we can’t significantly reduce the ridiculous spending because:

            -  It’s a First Amendment right to speak our minds and put 
                    our money where our mouths are.